Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Three Planeteers

In my short Thanksgiving travels, I managed to complete the audiobook of Edmond Hamilton's The Three Planeteers, originally published in the January 1940 issue of Startling Stories. Other than providing the inspiration for the name, Dumas' novel has little bearing on Hamilton's work.

In a future (Sometime in the 28th Century, I believe. An exact date isn't given.) where humanity has settled all the worlds in the solar system and gradually adapted to them. The fascist dictatorship of Haskell Trask has spread from Saturn and its moons, to all the outer planets, forming the League of Cold Worlds, which now menaces the Alliance of the inner worlds.

The titular trio are the most famous outlaws in the solar system: John Thorne of Earth, Sual Av of Venus, and Gunner Welk of Mercury. It turns out they aren't really outlaws at all, but special agents for the Alliance, pretending to be criminals so the Alliance has plausible deniability regarding their actions against the League. 

With war looming, the only hope of the Alliance to defeat the massive League war fleet is an experimental new weapon which requires the ultra-rare substance radite to work. Good news is there sufficient radite on the trans-Plutonian world of Erebus. Bad news is no one has ever returned from Erebus alive. Well, no one except, it's rumored, a former renegade turned space pirate. Said pirate is now dead, but his daughter reigns as pirate queen in the Asteroid Belt.

Besides the classic space war plotline, Hamilton gives a lot of space opera color: "joy-vibration" addicts, hunters in the fungal forests of Saturn, and the deadly secret of Erebus. It could be easily shorn of some it's old-fashionedness and moved outside of the solar system. Pieces would be easy to drop into Star Wars or any other space opera game.


Dick McGee said...

Loved this one when I read it back in 7th grade or thereabouts. Almost afraid to revisit it - although Bullard of the Space Patrol (which I also read back around then) held up well to a re-read last year.

JB said...

These days, I actually prefer my space opera set in single solar systems. Makes more sense than interstellar travel (and you can still have plenty of "age of sail" type issues, which I feel is the main reason people want interstellar Sci-Fi...well, that and alien lifeform weirdness).

Are the planets into the book terraformed? Or are the humans living in bio-domes or something? Is gravity an issue? Just curious.

Trey said...

It's pulpy, so the planet's are all habitable with very little explanation given, other than a bit of lampshading. For instance, Saturn's gravity is higher than Earth's slightly, but not near as high as it should be. The given explanation is that it is counteracts by the "centrifugal force" of the planet's high rate of rotation.

Anne said...

"The League of Cold Worlds" is a really excellent name for an evil government. Add to that fungal forests and a deadly Planet X that practically dares you to come visit it? I might have to give this one a read!

Trey said...

It's of it's era in some ways with the positives and negatives that might imply, but I think you'd find it worth your time.

Dick McGee said...

"For instance, Saturn's gravity is higher than Earth's slightly, but not near as high as it should be."

Ummm...modern science tells us the real world Saturn only has a "surface" (using the term loosely -we're talking cloud-top levels here, not the high-pressure high-temperature core) gravity of 1.065 gees, barely higher than Earth's and probably lower than whatever the original stories cited. It's one of the least dense planets in the entire system, and despite being ~95 times the mass of Terra it really doesn't have much pull for its size. The world certainly can't be strolled around on by swashbuckling space adventurers, but the author's guess on gravity was (however accidentally) not far off the mark here.

Trey said...

Well, except that he presents a Saturn with a rocky surface. A breathable atmosphere, too.